After years of success as a songwriter, Sasha Sloan took the jump to become a full-fledged singer-songwriter in 2018. Another two years later, and Sloan has finally released her first LP: Only Child. The album showcases exactly what Sloan excels at – sad songs. As a result, you end up wondering what exciting things would happen if she were to go outside her comfort zone?
While Sloan’s name might not ring a bell, she’s got quite the songwriting pedigree built up after working with people like Louis Tomlinson, Camila Cabello, and Idina Menzel, to name a few. Not only that has earned her fans, but she’s also built up a loyal following of her own. They are able to identify with Sloan’s honest lyrics and heart that she puts in all her music.
A lot of the songs on Sloan’s debut album are growers. They take a while to settle in your subconsciousness, but once they do – you can really appreciate them for what they are. For example, album opener “Matter To You” is a rather slow track to set the tone. While it’s melodically reflective of and true to the album overall, it still feels like an odd choice. On the one hand, “Matter To You” showcases what Sloan is so good at – using simple, relatable lyrics to describe fragile feelings that leave us breathless and vulnerable. With a somewhat dreamy production, the song manages to capture both the anxiety that comes with existing, as well as the beauty we find in fleeting moments of love, nurturing and connection. Considering how scary life can be and how insignificant we may feel, it’s nice to be reminded that you matter to someone.
On the other hand, it’s an outlier on the record in terms of its theme. Together with deep cut “Hypochondriac” – a sickeningly sweet ode to Sloan’s boyfriend, they are relationship-focused. Though the slow production may deceive you, both tracks see Sloan describe love. Yet most songs on the album deal with some type of sadness instead – be it big or small, caused by heartbreak, betrayal, or something else. The title track “Only Child” sees Sloan tackle feelings of loneliness having grown up by herself. It feels like a sweet fantasy childhood dream, with the stripped-back production emphasizing the sense of disappointment attached to finding out that it’s just that – a dream. Similarly, “Santa’s Real” sees her lament on the cruelty of reality, wishing to live in a world where Santa’s real instead. While it’s a nice sentiment, the song feels somewhat forgettable. “High School Me”, and “Is It Just Me?” seem to suffer from the same fate – where Sloan’s commitment to simple lyrics at times undercuts the quality and impact of the tracks.
Especially when a song like “High School Me” has a somewhat comparable concept to “House With No Mirrors,” which is where the LP finally starts to pick up some speed. It peels back another layer of Sloan’s personality, as she recounts her struggle with self-acceptance and self-love. A recurring theme throughout the album is the unforgiving, introspective approach Sloan takes when it comes to her lyrics. Baring her own securities open for anyone to see, she laments “if I lived in a house with no mirrors / where the walls didn’t pick me apart / maybe my skin would be thicker / if I lived in a house with no mirrors / I’d be louder, I’d be honest / probably wouldn’t be so self-conscious.”
Many will be able to sympathize with this strange sadness you may feel at not knowing who you could’ve been – if it wasn’t for constantly being worried about living up to your own standards and the judgment of others. Funnily enough, it’s one of the few songs where Sloan makes use of a metaphor to describe her feelings, referring to walls and mirrors as the external and internal voices filling her head with these insecurities.
In “Someone You Hate,” which signals a return to the more stripped back production by only featuring a strumming guitar and some drums, Sloan feels guilty over having broken a promise, ending with a broken relationship. Due to its slightly upbeat tempo, it almost feels as if Sloan’s shrugging at the fact she went from “Someone you held, you held when you were lonely / Someone you called, you called your one and only / I threw it all away / I went from someone you love / To someone you hate.” While it would’ve been interesting to see her dig deeper here, perhaps the relationship just ended up slipping away from her. Nevertheless, it echoes the introspective take of the album overall.
On the flip side, Sloan’s desperate for someone else’s love, even if it’s a lie on perhaps the strongest song of the album – lead single “Lie.” With a punchy up-tempo beat, and a great hook, it hits the perfect sweet spot of angst anthem. “I want you to lie, lie right to my face / Want you to put your hands on my waist / Can we just dance ’til the skies are white? / ‘Cause I really can’t get my heart broken tonight.”
The only exception to this introspection can be found in the track “Until It Happens to You,” where Sloan describes how heartbreak and pain are impossible to understand unless you’ve gone through it yourself. “You can have a friend lose somebody close / And you can be there when they need it the most, but / You won’t be the one having trouble sleeping,” she sings with hitched breaths. It’s a track where she utilizes her light voice to her utmost advantage, effortlessly translating the emotion of feeling helpless in the face of wanting to be there for a friend, but not knowing how. Production-wise, this song absolutely stands out on the album for its emotional depth and soundscape.
Only Child is a collection of songs that’ll surely be appreciated by Sloan’s fans, with some stand-out tracks that’ll win her some new admirers along the way as well. Sloan excels in compelling, angsty storytelling. And yet, at times the polished nuance to that bluntness which otherwise suits her is lacking. However, with songs like “Lie,” “House With No Mirrors,” and “Until It Happens to You,” it’s clear that Sloan awaits a bright future as a solo artist.